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The union of Christian elements and Creole imagination
The boom in the Christian practice recorded in Martinique following the general emancipation of slaves ordered in 1848 resulted in a multiplication of devotions and the founding of great pilgrimages. However, it did not lead to a radical upheaval in mentalities nor to a total break with Creole magic, which already included many Catholic elements. The colony observed at the end of the 19th century by the Greco-Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn had become, in appearance, more Catholic than Rome with a profusion of altars, statues of Saints, and crucifixes along the paths, on the summits, in niches dug in rocks, or in tree trunks. In the intimacy of Martinican houses, almost every room had a chapel', a shelf hung on the wall, decorated with holy images lit by candles. But beyond this Catholic appearance, Martinique had remained the country of ghosts, a land marked by irrational fears with legends associated with almost every place. These beliefs referred to a Creole imaginary combining frustrations linked to the slavery past and racism, the European fear of ghosts, and the African principle of the effective presence of the dead. Catholic rites and symbols were therefore mobilized within the framework of this very particular vision of the world.
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